Board member Miller attempts to ‘clear air’
By Paul Myers
exeter – Exeter District Ambulance (EDA) continued down the road of dysfunction during their latest meeting on April 27. Aside from the usual mundane government tasks like accounting and program updates, the agenda listed an unorthodox item, “Board member [Tony] Miller would like to clear the air on some allegations and discussion.”
In a multiple point diatribe that was at times combative, aggressive and all together counterproductive, Miller vented his frustrations over statements made on social media and articles published by the press. Mostly in regards to points made over a recall petition served to both Miller and fellow board member Darinda Kunkel. Overall, Miller addressed points that included slander, conflict of interest, harboring a personal agenda, blackmail, formal complaints filed against him, removing boxes of documents from the EDA office and spending $540,000 from the district before he was even elected in-lieu to the board.
Miller began by threatening to have EDA staff member Jennifer Rios removed from the meeting for making an inaudible comment from the audience.
“I’m going to ask you Alan, one time to warn her and if she says another word you throw her out of the meeting! If she won’t leave I’ll call the police department and have her removed! That is your job to take care of the meeting,” Miller demanded of Board President Alan Sherer.
Miller went on to define slander as, “An action or crime of making a false or spoken statement damaging to a person’s reputation.”
“There’s been a bunch of stuff out there on social media and there was some stuff put in the paper that I’m very disappointed about, that the paper wouldn’t go back and check their references on me being a union member,” Miller stated in reference to the claim that he has been a Teamster shop steward.
The Sun-Gazette printed the following quote from the recall petition served to both Miller and Darinda Kunkel during the Board’s March 23 meeting, “We feel it is a conflict of interest that Mr. Miller’s wife, Linda, is an employee in the office and that Mr. Miller is a Teamsters Shop steward, which is the union which currently represents EDA employees. Mr. Miller has voted on union matters which directly benefit his wife and the union he works for. Nepotism, cronyism and the potential for future votes that will directly affect his wife and the union are possible.”
The quote was originally printed on March 29, and then reprinted on April 12 and April 19.
The Sun-Gazette attempted to make contact with the Teamsters Local Union Number 517 Secretary Treasurer Greg Landers to verify whether Miller was a shop steward. Landers failed to return the Sun-Gazette’s phone calls by press time of the first article and all subsequent articles on the matter.
Miller went on to produce a letter from Landers denoting that Miller is not and never has been a shop steward with Teamsters Local 517.
“I was slandered on that pretty bad wasn’t I,” Miller stated. However, the Sun-Gazette did not broadcast that news.
Miller moved on to his second point addressing a supposed conflict of interest for voting on union matters that affect his wife. He went on to say that, “As long as I don’t vote on or having anything to do that helps our household or adds monetary value to our household it is not a conflict of interest for me to vote on.”
Nonetheless, Miller did vote in favor of a new union agreement that included his wife Linda Miller who is a billing clerk with the District. The agreement was voted on in January of this year and was a one year agreement retroactive to July 1, 2016. The agreement will be automatically renewed on May 31, 2017 and in all subsequent years until either party chooses to make a change in which they would have to provide a 10 day notice. Prior to the agreement being passed Linda made $16.00 per hour, and according to District Manager TJ Fischer, she does not make more than that under the new union agreement.
Miller also pointed out other conflicts of interest including past board members whose family also worked for the District at the same time, while also mistakenly pointing out instances that were not conflicts of interest like current board president Alan Sherer serving on the board simultaneously with his brother Mike Sherer. While the two are related they do not together make up a quorum, as well they were both independently elected.
Miller went on to claim that the Sun-Gazette reported that the District was on the verge of closing its doors, and indicated that the report was published this year. However, there is not an article published by the Sun-Gazette corroborating his claim. The last article addressing the District’s dire financial status that could result in closure was published in April 2015. He continued to state that similar claims have been made on social media.
The besieged board member addressed yet another claim made in the recall petition asserting that he has a personal agenda.
“The only thing that would be a personal agenda is that I know about all the crimes that were committed in this place. The break in, who stole all the paperwork, who opened the door, who was here when it happened, who watched the person go through the place stealing all the paperwork that was here. The one who dumped all of the piss on the carpet…while Jackie [Paull of LifeStar] was working here. And I do know about all of this. That would be the only personal agenda I have,” Miller said. “I want to see this place cleaned up for the tax payers of Exeter. They deserve people who do not lie, cheat and steal.”
Miller continued on to rehash the allegations of blackmail. The recall petition refers to an independent investigation into a conversation between Miller and former EMT Michael Hansen, who accused the board member of blackmailing him to falsify a letter about other employees or lose his job if he refused. In the report, the investigator stated that Hansen claimed Miller called him to discuss an incident in March 2015, where several district employees were drinking at a local bar and decided to come back to EDA’s sleeping quarters for on-duty ambulance teams to sober up and spend the night. During the Oct. 17 phone call, Hansen claimed that Miller asked him to type out a statement naming two employees that were hooked up to IV’s that night and threatened to fire those employees but “would leave Mr. Hansen’s name out of the conversation.”
Miller described the 18-minute phone call to investigators as a “casual conversation” but “refused to disclose details and “also refused to answer other questions.” Miller claimed he was nothing more than a taxpayer at the time because he had yet to be sworn into office.
Ultimately, the report concluded that Hansen was more credible than Miller and that Hansen’s allegations of blackmail were sustained.
“That was one person’s opinion and if you go back through all the LCW bills you can see how set up that all was! That was one man’s opinion and I don’t want to hear that called up again,” Miller exclaimed to both the Board and the audience filled with EDA staff.
Miller briefly addressed formal complaints brought against him. The recall petition states that, “Since taking office Mr. Miller has had numerous formal complaints filed against him for hostile work environment, some which included physical threats that were made to a former employee.”
“If there were complaints filed against me then it didn’t go anywhere and nothing has ever been done,” Miller said.
Miller continued on to address the accusation of removing boxes from former EDA District Manager Kim Demico’s office, who was put on administrative leave earlier this year, while also changing the locks. He claimed that he was asked to change the locks by Sherer because they feared an EDA employee was going to steal things from the office. However, Sherer sharply stated that he asked Miller to change the locks because they were closing the office. But the recall petition states that Miller removed documents from the EDA office he was changing the locks to.
“When I walked in I walked in with a Walmart bag, my drill and a screw driver. When I walked out I walked out with my drill and a screwdriver. Whoever says that I left with a box is not telling the truth,” Miller said. He also added that Kunkel and her husband John, who was a board member from 2002-2009, were in the parking lot at the time. The recall petition also claims that Miller and Darinda Kunkel were colluding with one another.
Miller concluded his remarks by addressing claims of personal gain.
“One thing, me, Darinda and the rest of the board members do not get paid for this. The $50 stipend we’re supposed to get, we all denied it,” Miller said. “Before me and Darinda came on this board $540,000 was spent – a half a million dollars! It’s been put out there that Ms. Kunkel and I have something to gain. We ain’t gaining anything here other than trying to make this place run better.”
He continued on to claim that social media and the Sun-Gazette have said that Miller and Kunkel took part in spending the $540,000 out of the Local Agencies Investment Fund (LAIF) before they were on the board. However, the Sun-Gazette has not published an article pointing to Miller and Kunkel spending funds from the LAIF before they were elected in-lieu to the board.
“It’s been in the newspaper, it’s been all over social media,” Miller claimed. He later on indicated two staff members in the audience were responsible for EDA related social media posts in regards to himself and Kunkel. “There’s only one person who is sitting here that’s on social media, well actually two.”
Current EDA social media policy in the employee handbook finds that employees can have their own personal social media accounts including web sites and blogs. However, employees must, “Make it clear to the readers that the views expressed are the employee’s alone and that they do not necessarily reflect the views o the District.” The policy goes on to state that employees, “Confine social networking to matters unrelated to the District, if necessary, to ensure compliance with securities regulations and other laws.”
The policy also states that, “Employees are prohibited from posting or displaying comments about coworkers or supervisors or the District that are vulgar, obscene, threatening, intimidating, harassing, or a violation of the District’s workplace policies…”
EDA District Manager Fischer reminded employees last week that violation of the policy can and will result in corrective action up to and including separation of employment.
“I don’t want to see another word mentioned about me or Darinda on social media. If you work in this place you know you have a handbook and you know what the handbook says! And as a board we will agree that [anything] else that is put into the newspaper by an employee that’s derogative against EDA or members of this board will be dealt with swiftly. We’re going to tell TJ that he needs to take care of it,” Miller said.